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Young Men Who Fought in Syria with Kurds Against ISIS Return.

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Our Kurdish Sisters and Brothers. 

Exclusive: Death Pact Of IS-Fighting Britons

From Sky News.

Two Britons who went to Syria to fight IS have told of their battles on the front line – and how they vowed to kill each other rather than get captured.

Jamie Read and James Hughes told how they dodged bullets during chaotic patrols with Kurdish forces after recording a “goodbye” video for their families in case they died.

They described spending hours lying in the “pitch black” in no-man’s land, in conditions they said were reminiscent of World War One.

On one occasion, it was so cold that a young Kurdish comrade collapsed with hypothermia – “body-popping” on the ground next to them.

In an exclusive Sky News interview after their return to the UK, the pair also revealed how panic alarms have been installed in their homes, amid fears they could be targets for IS supporters.

They strongly denied being mercenaries, telling how they had sold possessions to fund their flights and had returned to the UK to “mounting debts and bills”.

They had not been paid “a penny” for their exploits, though they had been “treated like royalty” by some of the Kurdish troops, the men said.

Provided by Sky News And the former soldiers gave a detailed account of their time in Iraq and Syria, explaining that they had travelled to fight IS militants because they had “zero tolerance for terrorism”.

Describing what had prompted them to travel, Mr Read said the beheading of British aid convoy volunteer Alan Henning had been the final straw.

“Alan Henning – aid worker, British – put him on his hands and knees and cut his head off, you know what I mean,” Mr Read said.

“Can you really find justification in sitting back here and doing nothing?”

Mr Read, 24, and Mr Hughes, 26, revealed that organising the trip had been quite simple with a “phone call here or there” and some communication over Skype.

They were screened by simply having their Facebook posts checked and ensuring that social media friends were not IS supporters, Mr Read said.

The pair said that after arriving in Irbil, northern Iraq, they were transported via the Kurdish HQ to the front line in Syria.

During the journey the Britons said they had no idea whether they had landed in a trap.

“I’m not going to lie, this was one of the most frightening processes you can go through, you know, the paranoia: through the roof,” Mr Read said.

“You get picked up by a guy who doesn’t speak English, so straight away there’s a language barrier.

“When we got to the safe house… it’s sort of dodgy-looking, so you think ‘I don’t really like this’. At one point, you think ‘is this the point I’m going to get handed over?'”

After getting a uniform and weapons, Mr Hughes said they eventually “rocked up” on the frontline to an old schoolhouse covered in mud.

They arrived to cheers from their Kurdish comrades, were plied with chai (tea) and cigarettes, and met three other Westerners who had joined the fight.

During their three weeks on the front line, their duties included terrifying night patrols where it was the “blackest black… like being in a cave with no lights”.

“You are left staring into the pitch black, hoping no one sees you first,” Mr Read said.

The Britons said they had hatched a plan to shoot each dead rather than being caught and paraded on television as hostages.

“We wouldn’t get captured, bottom line, we couldn’t get captured, we’re not getting our heads paraded on YouTube, we made that vow before we went out.

“Everybody out there is carrying a round for themselves. Nobody wants to be captured by IS. Nobody wants to end up on YouTube getting their head cut off.

“So for us, as harsh as it sounds, it’s probably the better way to go. It’s the old saying, ‘you keep a round for each other’.”

Describing their final day, Mr Read told how the pair had been out on patrol towards a nearby village where IS militants had been holed up.

“All of a sudden we just got opened up on. Quite a lot of small arms (…) quite a lot of AKs and they were quite close.

“There were rounds coming in and they were really close – they were pinging and they were bouncing, whizzing over your head – obviously it’s a very distinctive noise.

“There was a lot of shouting, a lot of screaming, a lot of F-words being dropped.”

The pair said they were forced to flee through a village which was “littered with IEDs (improvised explosive devices)” before returning to base.

“We eventually made it out but this was a real eye-opener – this is how these people were going to act – there’s something more that needs to be done there.”

They returned to Britain last week and were questioned by anti-terrorism officers for six hours at Heathrow airport before being released.

Asked whether they would return to Syria, Mr Read said: “I’d like to think we would have the opportunity to go back.”

But he added: “I’m unsure on the political stance – I’m not sure whether our Government would appreciate us going back.”

The Independent reports,

After their three-week stint on the front line, they were held for questioning at Heathrow Airport for six hours and they claim to have faced mountains of debt on their return. Neither was arrested or charged for terrorism, unlike every other British national who left the country to fight in the Syrian civil war.

Read and Hughes also said they had “zero tolerance for terrorism” and cited that and the murder of British aid volunteer Alan Henning as their justification for choosing to fight against the militant group.

Their homes have been fitted with panic alarms in fear of Isis supporters who could be planning to seek retribution and the pair have also been monitored in a counter-terrorism watch.

Hughes, 26, from Worcestershire and served three tours of Afghanistan with the British Army, added during the interview with Sky News that patrols would be put out just in case their homes are attacked.

The Lions of Rojava page on Facebook, for the YPG which is also known as the People’s Defence Unit, has claimed that soldiers from countries such as the US, Germany, Netherlands and Estonia have also joined the Kurdish force.

Around 200 soldiers will be deployed by the British Army in the New Year to train Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers for six months, in plans announced last week.

We await complaints from the usual sources that that these brave young men were not charged with terrorism, that this shows UK ‘double standards’,  – that is from the same people who not too long ago were comparing  those fighting for the Daesh genociders with the volunteers defending the Spanish Republic in the 1930s.

Meanwhile comrade Janet Biehl has visited the Kurdish stronghold of Rojava

My Impressions of Rojava.

From December 1 to 9, I had the privilege of visiting Rojava as part of a delegation of academics from Austria, Germany, Norway, Turkey, the U.K., and the U.S. We assembled in Erbil, Iraq, on November 29 and spent the next day learning about the petrostate known as the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG), with its oil politics, patronage politics, feuding parties (KDP and PUK), and apparent aspirations to emulate Dubai. We soon had enough and on Monday morning were relieved to drive to the Tigris, where crossed the border into Syria and entered Rojava, the majority-Kurdish autonomous region of northern Syria.

……………..

Anyone with a bit of faith in humanity should wish the Rojavans well with their revolution and do what they can to help it succeed. They should demand that their governments stop allowing Turkey to define a rejectionist international policy toward the Kurds and toward Democratic Autonomy. They should demand an end to the embargo against Rojava.

The members of the delegation in which I participated (even though I am not an academic) did their work well. Sympathetic to the revolution, they nonetheless asked challenging questions, about Rojava’s economic outlook, about the handling ethnicity and nationalism, and more.  The Rojavans we met, accustomed to grappling with hard questions, responded thoughtfully and even welcomed critique.

Full article via above link.

Returning Jihadists should be employed as “spokesman for their communities”.

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Our Beloved Comrades the Jihadists are out to Murder. 

“Rather than banning fighters from coming home, governments should consider employing them as spokespeople in their home communities.”

Hat-tip DM.

No this does not from the Guardian Comment is Free or from those see some elements of ‘progressive’ politics in the battle for the ‘Caliphate’.

It’s by “Josh Cohen …a former US State Department project officer. He currently works for a satellite technology company, contributes to a number of foreign policy-focused media outlets and tweets @jkc_in_dc. “

And it appears on Now.

It must rank, and it certainly ranks, as the most willfully vile suggestion that’s floating around.

Those most susceptible to recruitment into violent extremism frequently feel excluded by society.

We make a sharp distinction between attitudes and actions. All attitudes must be dissected and debated. This is the lifeblood of a democracy.”

One obvious question, then, is where the West’s Syrian jihadists — and would-be jihadists — land if prevented from returning home. Stateless and now rejected by their home countries, many will likely wind up in tertiary countries such as Yemen or Libya, where they are much more likely to come into contact with groups such as Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) or Ansar al-Shariah, and in turn potentially become part of a core of angry, “professional” jihadists dedicated to bringing destruction to Europe and the West.

Another important fact to consider is that many Westerners who have joined ISIS in Syria have become disillusioned with the organization upon discovering its brutality towards its fellow Muslims — not to mention the fact that jihad is not quite so glamorous when you are pulling washing duty and your iPod doesn’t work. One example of this phenomenon is the 30 British citizens with ISIS who have expressed a desire to return home but are stuck in limbo due to fears of long prison sentences when they arrive back in the UK. Rather than banning them from coming home, the UK government should consider employing them as spokespeople in their home communities as the perfect antidote to the tremendously effective social media recruitment campaigns with which ISIS targets young Western Muslims.

Finally, stripping returning jihadists of their citizenship may actually violate the UN Convention on Reducing Statelessness, as well as international human rights law. Referring to the UK’s revocation of citizenship, Dr. Christophe Paulussen, of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism at the Hague, noted that “it becomes dangerous when measures are slowly eroding [international] law principles that we have cherished for so long and that we stand for.”

In Denmark, by contrast,

the municipality of Aarhus has implemented a unique program that focuses on inclusion rather than punishment.

And while implementing a de-radicalisation programme in the country,

…not all radicalization can be prevented, so Aarhus has also established a comprehensive reintegration and de-radicalization program for those returning from Syria. “The program’s core is that we have one entry point to help, but that help can have very different characteristics depending on the individual situation. It can be debriefing or psychological help; it may be in the form of a mentor, assistance with housing or something else. The program is rooted in the police, but includes many different disciplines,” Agerschou noted.

While some believe the Aarhus program is too soft, so far it is working. In 2013, 30 people travelled from Aarhus to Syria to participate in the conflict. As of August, however, only one person had been recorded travelling from Aarhus to Syria in 2014. Aarhus is also working with numerous returnees, most of whom are now engaged in work or education rather than the conflict in Syria. Word of Aarhus’ focus on rehabilitation and dialogue has spread in Syria, impelling many Danish Muslims — most of whom have also become disillusioned with jihad — to seek a way to return to Denmark and leave the jihadi life behind.

While there is no single anecdote for homegrown jihadism, Aarhus offers a model that Western governments would be wise to at least consider.

 In our view those fighting with the genociders of Da’esh (Isis) and Al Nusra (also guilty of persecution, torture and mass murder) and should be investigated for war crimes.

They should indeed be excluded from society.

Written by Andrew Coates

December 8, 2014 at 1:52 pm

Our History. Roots of the British Socialist Movement. Duncan Bowie. Review.

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Our History. Roots of the British Socialist Movement. Duncan Bowie. Chartist and Socialist History Society, £4.

Edward Thompson once talked of the ‘Pilgrim’s Progress’ approach to the labour movement’s past. That is, it’s ransacked for “forerunners” of present-day ideas. The academic left, no less than Leninists, tends to sift through our history, to remove the chaff of faulty thinkers. Few are willing to consider without the condescension of posterity the principles and actions of our political ancestors.

Every issue of Chartist contains an ‘Our History’ column by Duncan Bowie. The intention is to “draw attention to the writings of earlier radicals and socialists”. An individual is selected (the most recent is Fred Henderson, the first socialist elected to Norwich City Council – heard of him? I hadn’t) with a short biography and an extract from their work.

The present pamphlet contains the first 50 of these contributions. It begins with the People’s Charter of 1838, which argued for democratic universal franchise, and the “principle of self-government”. Following soon after is Bronterre O’Brien, the leader of the Jacobin tendency amongst the Chartists, underlines the early republicanism of the British left, with an introduction to Buonarroti’s history of Babeuf’s Conspiracy for Equality and a speech praising Robespierre in 1859. It ends with Keir Hardie in From Serfdom to Socialism (1907) stating that “Socialism implies the inherent equality of all human beings….Holding this to be true of all individuals, the Socialist applies it also it also to races…”

Duncan introduces us to William Linton, influenced (as was much of the 19th century European left) by the Italian republican Mazzini. His belief in the “perfectibility of the human race” may perhaps not be fashionable. But it’s a reminder that our past rests on far better foundations than those who would make us bow down before religious and racial difference. Women are represented: Annie Besant (in her socialist and rationalist pre-Theosophy period), Eleanor Marx and Isabella Ford – the first woman to speak at a Labour Party conference in support of a motion that women should be given the right to vote on the same terms as men.

Duncan has selected many who played a role in spreading socialist ideas into the labour movement and further afield. Radicals, by the end of the 19th century often aligned to the Liberal Party, those influenced by Henry George (the only non-British or Irish person represented) and his land reform programme gradually gives was to the formation of independent socialist organisations. The first British Marxist, Belford Bax, reminds us that Henry Hyndman’ England for All (1881) was not unique in that field. There is place for Christian socialists, Fabians, and, naturally for William Morris, one of the few Victorian socialist writers still widely read.

Our History is an abundance of riches. It is also dependable: Duncan has cross-referenced his articles with Labour and Radical Biographical dictionaries and has an extensive collection of the original literature. Perhaps one might extend the hint in O’Brien and Linton’s interest in other European radical and left wing thinkers to the impact that Louis Blanc had, during his long exile in London, on the British left. John Stuart Mill’s famous ‘Chapters on Socialism’ refer to him and to Blanqui, not to Marx.

A gem of a pamphlet we look forward to January’s Chartist for the next Our History.

PDF (earlier version)

Solidarity and Love to Warwick University Students Attacked by Police.

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How they Deal with Protesters for Free Education.

I am a former Warwick University student.

Warwick is notorious for the incidents in 1971 outlined in Warwick University Ltd (1)

During my time (1976 – 1979) we held numerous protests on campus – although I personally was more involved in anti-fascist campaigns and supporting trade union fights, like the dispute at Grunwick.

We sat in overnight in the Senate building only a short time after I began – and they didn’t even try to evict us.

Nothing like the following happened, although my closest friends, who ran the students’ union just after I’d finished faced injunctions for their occupations.

Shocking video: Police CS spray protesting Warwick University students

Three people have been arrested after ugly scenes broke out during a protest at Warwick University.A video has also emerged which appears to capture the moment protesters, from campaign group Warwick for Free Education, were CS sprayed by police.The group had been staging a ‘sit-in’ protest against student fees at the university’s Senate House building as part of a national day of action when three police vehicles arrived and officers began to wrestle with protesters in an apparent attempt to clear the building.

Coventry Evening Telegraph.

Three people have been arrested and police officers accused of using excessive force after a Taser was pulled on students amid violent scenes at a sit-in for a free education on Wednesday.

Students at the University of Warwick say they were sitting down discussing tuition fees after a national student protest when the police arrived.

Helena Dunnett-Orridge said she had been attacked by police: “There had been a demo for a free education, then people went into Senate House, sat in reception and had a discussion about the protest. Police came in and we all linked arms. They started pushing and attacking people, completely unprovoked. We couldn’t say anything because we were being pushed.

“They pushed people to the ground and grabbed a girl by the throat using her scarf. They also used CS spray in my friend’s face and had Tasers. They started physically pushing and carrying people out. They dragged me out with them.”

Police said they had been called to the site after a member of university staff complained that they had been assaulted. Although they confirmed that a Taser had been taken out, they said it had not been used. A tweet from the West Midlands police account said a Taser “was drawn but not deployed. The sound is a warning sound”.

Guardian.

Now we hear:

Police are investigating claims officers used “disproportionate force” during a protest at the University of Warwick.

Three people were arrested on Wednesday as about 25 students demonstrated against rising tuition fees.

Video on YouTube showed police using CS spray and threatening protesters at the Coventry campus with a Taser.

West Midlands Police said the videos would be examined and it expected the highest standards from all officers.

Security staff at the university said they had faced a “shocking and totally unprovoked act of violence” from protesters, prompting them to call police.

One person was arrested on suspicion of assault, another two on suspicion of obstruction. All three have since been released on police bail.

‘Unnecessarily harmed’

A statement on the Warwick Free Education website said demonstrators were “punched, pushed on to the floor, dragged, grabbed by the throat and rammed into a wall and kneed in the face”.

Warwick Students Union said that based on video footage online “we absolutely believe that disproportionate force was used against protesters”.

As a result, it said some students were “unnecessarily harmed”.

Some video clips have since been removed from YouTube.

Coventry Police Commander Ch Supt Claire Bell said: “Police officers are highly trained in dealing with all public order situations and using appropriate levels of force.

“We are aware of videos of the protest being circulated on social media sites, which will be examined.

“We expect the highest standards from all officers, and if any officer is found to have fallen below these standards in any way, they will be thoroughly investigated.”

West Midlands Police said a Taser was drawn as a warning, but was not fired, while CS spray was used when it was felt a group was advancing on officers.

 

 

 

Love and Solidarity to the protesting Warwick students!

 

Warwick For Free Education.

Student Assembly Against Austerity.

 

(1) There is a new edition of this book. Warwick University Limited Spokesman 2014 which Chartist has asked me review.

In February 1970, students occupying the Registry at Warwick University uncovered evidence of secret political surveillance of staff and students. There followed not only fierce debates within the university on issues of governance and democracy, but also a legal battle as the administration tried to stop the press from publishing the documentary evidence, and wider public debate on the purpose and values of university education. Warwick University Ltd will be of great interest to today’s activists, because the conflict at Warwick clearly prefigures current struggles over the subordination of higher education to commercial goals, as well as political surveillance, policing, the use of legal injunctions, press freedom and business corruption. This edition includes a new introduction prepared by some of the original contributors, highlighting the links between then and now.

Bans and the SWP Bullies (from Feminism to Black Revolutionaries).

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Up to their Old Tricks.

This is an important statement which should be taken with the next Blog Post (from Phil, a Very Public Sociologist and Howie’s Corner).

Bans, the SWP and the struggle to defend feminism on campus.

27th of November.

International Socialist Network.

Extracts:

We oppose a moral panic over free speech in student unions: they are member organisations not the state. However, we think we need the highest and most rigorous standards around free speech. Free speech cannot be absolute; it has to be negotiated by our community. We have a duty to provide a secure environment for all. We must have consistent positions on where the limits are, and be very clear and open in the reasons for these limits. We don’t think the no-platform policy against the SWP is being applied consistently. A consistent approach could ban most mainstream political parties and the Catholic Church from student unions on the same grounds used for the SWP’s ban. A better approach to the SWP and SWSS in student unions is not to shut down the society, nor to ban them. We should support and fight for unions to have decent membership disciplinary policies for misogynistic behaviour. If any SWP or SWSS member in a student union is behaving in a misogynistic way then they should be told to change their behaviour by the union. Failing that, they must be disciplined as a member of the student union, as any normal member would be for misogynistic behaviour.

…..

Many comrades in what remains of SWP can still be debated with. However, the moments of internal opposition have passed. Opposition activists have left; many into rs21 and the IS Network. Bans and no-platform policies will probably further stifle honest discussion in the SWP, and may ultimately be counter-productive as the SWP would use the attempts to ban it to try to regain legitimacy by rallying people around it in a fight for free speech.

SWP Bullies London Black Revolutionaries (from All that is solid.)

27th of November.

As you might expect, hearing a bandwagon trundling along in the distance, the SWP tried to get a piece of last night’s LBR-arranged 5,000 strong ‘FromLondon2Ferguson’ protest outside the American embassy. According to this LBR statement below, the SWP didn’t take kindly to something being organised without their “assistance”. It has been lightly edited.

We would like to clarify a recently alarming statement on behalf of Stand Up To Racism posted to us by Dennis Fernado and Sabby Dhalu.

From the hours of 25/11/14 3:00pm – 26/11/13 1:00am. LBR Organisers received a bombardment of calls from SUTR organisers.

We would like to refute some accusations being made.

At 1am of the 26th of November. SUTR approached us with the possibility of some of their Non-Socialist Workers Party members to speak as speakers of both events. We made the democratic decision to of course allow the families of those killed in police custody to speak at the event, as some have been arranged too already. We would like to convey respect and solidarity to all speakers of both events.

Our organisation received a plethora of threats from Weyman Bennett over the phone, ranging from the threat to dismantle and “go to war” our organisation if we continued to “ignore the leaders of the movement” and secondly, if we ever organise events within Anti-Racism, that we must be obliged to speak to SUTR/SWP.

Phil comments,

What strikes me about the statement is the entitlement of Bennett and his acolytes. Remember, the SWP is an organisation that has suffered the worst crisis in its 60 year history and recently appealed for unity among leftists. What this episode demonstrates is this toxic tub of toy town Trots have learned nothing from their rape allegation cover up, nothing from the revulsion they inspire in the wider left, and nothing about how to repair their organisation. Their attempt to bully London Black Revolutionaries demonstrates why they should be avoided at all costs and never be allowed to pimp off campaigns and movements not of their making.

The story comes via Howie,

SWP shenanigans over Ferguson demo

The outcry over the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black youth in Ferguson has focused a lot of attention on racism and justice in the USA. Unsurprisingly the protests has attracted coverage in the media and the attention of political activists on the far-left who have organised a vigil outside the US embassy today (26th November).

As usual the Socialist Worker Party has tried “muscling in” on the demo which has led to a fallout with the London Black Revolutionaries, an organisation I have no previous knowledge of.

LBR have published a lengthy statement, (see via link).

See the statement in full.

Written by Andrew Coates

November 28, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Posted in Anti-Fascism, Britain, Human Rights, SWP

Tagged with , ,

Reasons to like the Berlin wall: ‘Anti-Fascist Protection Wall’.

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 Anti-Fascist Protection Wall Says Leading CPB Member. 

Just in case you thought the Sparts were the maddest group around… from here - close to the Communist Party of Britain.

 

Amidst the storm of propaganda surrounding the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall it is worth taking a step back and reviewing the circumstances in which it came to be built.

The following is the text of a 1962 pamphlet from the German Democratic Republic.

Newspapers, radio and television report daily about Berlin and West Berlin in many languages throughout the world. They often speak or write of a state frontier, or of a wall.

It may be very difficult for you to form a valid picture from all these reports which frequently contradict each other. We want to help you to do so.

We tried to imagine what would be the considerations of a citizen of a foreign state if he wanted to gain clarity about the problems in West Berlin. And we would like to reply to these considerations.

1st CONSIDERATION. Where, exactly, is Berlin situated?

A glance at the map suffices: Berlin lies in the middle of the German Democratic Republic, exactly 180 kilometres (112.5 miles) to the east of its western frontier. A quite normal locality for the capital of a state. Only one thing is not normal at all: that a hostile, undermining policy and disruptive acts have for years been carried on from the western part of this city against the surrounding state territory. West Berlin Mayor Willi Brandt called West Berlin a “thorn in the side of the GDR.” Would you like to have a thorn in your side? We don’t either! But Brandt even proclaims quite frankly: “We want to be the disturber of the peace.”

2nd CONSIDERATION. Did the wall fall out of the sky?

No. It was the result of developments of many years standing in West Germany and West Berlin. Let us recall preceding events: In 1948 a separate currency reform was introduced in West Germany and West Berlin – the West German reactionaries thereby split Germany and even west Berlin in to two currency areas.

The West German separatist state was founded in 1949 – Bonn thereby turned the zonal border into a state frontier.

In 1954 West Germany was included in NATO – Bonn thereby converted the state frontier into the front-line between two pact systems.

The decision on the atomic armament of the West German Bundeswehr was made in 1958 – thus, Bonn continues to aggravate the situation in Germany and Berlin. Repeatedly the annexation of the GDR is proclaimed as the official aim of Bonn policy, most recently in a statement of the Adenauer Christian Democratic Union (CDU), on 11 July 1961.

Thus did the anti-national, aggressive NATO policy create the wall which today separates the two German states and also goes through the middle of Berlin. The Bonn government and the West Berlin Senate have systematically converted West Berlin into a centre of provocation from where 90 espionage organizations, the RIAS American broadcasting station in West Berlin (Radio in American Sector) and revanchist associations organize acts of sabotage against the GDR and the other socialist countries. Through our protective measures of 13 August 1961 we have only safeguarded and strengthened that frontier which was already drawn years ago and made into a dangerous front-line by the people in Bonn and West Berlin. How high and how strongly fortified a frontier must be, depends, as is common knowledge, on the kind of relations existing between the states of each side of the frontier.

3rd CONSIDERATION. Did the wall have to come?

Yes and no. We have submitted more than one hundred proposals for understanding, on the renunciation of atomic armament, and on the withdrawal of the two German states from NATO or the Warsaw Treaty. If things had gone according to our proposals the situation in Germany would not have been aggravated and, consequently, there would have been no wall. Especially since 1958 the GDR and the Soviet Union have repeatedly told the West Berlin Senate, the Bonn government, and the western powers: Be reasonable! Let us eliminate the abnormal situation in West Berlin together. Let us start negotiations. Why did Bonn and West Berlin reject these proposals? Why did they, instead, step up agitation to an unprecedented degree before 13 August? – The wall had to come because they were bringing about the danger of a conflict. Those who do not want to hear, must feel.

4th CONSIDERATION. What did the wall prevent?

We no longer wanted to stand by passively and see how doctors, engineers, and skilled workers were induced by refined methods unworthy of the dignity of man to give up their secure existence in the GDR and work in West Germany or West Berlin. These and other manipulations cost the GDR annual losses amounting to 3.5 thousand million marks.

But we prevented something much more important with the wall – West Berlin’s becoming the starting point for a military conflict. The measures we introduced in 13 August in conjunction with the Warsaw Treaty states have cooled off a number of hotheads in Bonn and West Berlin. For the first time in German history the match which was to set fire to another war was extinguished before it had fulfilled its purpose.

5th CONSIDERATION. Was peace really threatened?

Indian journalists R. K. Karanjia shall give you the answer to the question. He published a sensational report from Berlin in the biggest Indian weekly,Blitz in which the world public is warned against the West Berlin powder-keg. K. R. Karanjia wrote:

“It (the protective wall of the GDR) served the cause of world peace since it halted the advance of the German neo-Hitlerites toward the East, forced the world to recognize the reality of the division of Germany and thus supports negotiation.” (retranslated from German)

If further evidence of the aggressive intentions of the West German government is needed it is provided by the authoritative West German employers’ newspaper, the Industriekurier, which regretfully wrote, exactly 19 days after 13 August 1961: “A reunification with the Bundeswehr marching victoriously through the Brandenburg Gate to the beating of drums – such a reunification will not take place in the foreseeable future.”

Bonn heads were really haunted by ideas of such a victorious entry. That would have meant war.

6th CONSIDERATION. Who is walled in?

According to the exceedingly intelligent explanations of the West Berlin Senate we have walled ourselves in and are living in a concentration camp. But in that case why are the gentlemen so excited? Obviously, because in reality their espionage centres, their revanchist radio stations, their fascist solders’ associations, their youth poisoners, and their currency racketeers have been walled in. They are excited because we have erected the wall as an antifascist, protective wall against them.

Does something not occur to you? West Berlin Mayor Brandt wails that half of the GDR, including the workers in the enterprise militia groups, is armed. What do you think of a concentration camp whose inmates have weapons in their hands?

7th CONSIDERATION. Who breaks off human contacts?

Of course, it is bitter for many Berliners not to be able to visit each other at present. But it would be more bitter if a new war were to separate them for ever. Moreover, when the GDR was forced to introduce compulsory entry permits for West Berlin citizens on 23 August in the interests of its security we at the same time offered to open up entry permit offices in municipal railway stations in West Berlin. In fact we opened them and issued the first permits. Who closed them by force? The same Senate of that Mr. Brandt who is today shedding crocodile tears about “contacts being broken”! The GDR has maintained its offer. If we had our way Berliners could visit each other despite the wall.

8th CONSIDERATION. Does the wall threaten anyone?

Bonn propaganda describes the wall as a “monstrous evidence of the aggressiveness of world communism.” Have you ever considered it to be a sign of aggressiveness when someone builds a fence around his property?

9th CONSIDERATION. Who is aggravating the situation?

The wall? It stands there quite calmly. Former French Premier Reynaud said already on 19 August 1961, according to UPI: “The sealing-off measures of the East Berlin government did not increase, but lessened, the danger of a third world war.”

In reality, the situation is being aggravated by persons who play at being the strong man on our state frontier, who are turning West Berlin into a NATO base and daily inciting West Berliners against the GDR. Municipal railway cars are being destroyed, frontier guards attacked and brutally shot, tunnels dug for agents and bomb attacks made on the GDR’s frontier security installations. Does that serve relaxation? One must really ask why attacks on the GDR state frontier in West Berlin are not subject to court prosecution as in other states. The Brandt Senate even presents “its respects” to the provocateurs.

10th CONSIDERATION. Is the wall a gymnastic apparatus?

The wall is the state frontier of the German Democratic Republic. The state frontier of a sovereign state must be respected. That is so the world over. He who does not treat it with respect can not complain if he comes to harm. West German and West Berlin politicians demand that “the wall be removed.” We are not particularly fond of walls, either. But please consider where the actual wall runs in Germany, the wall which must be pulled down in your and our interest. It is the wall which was erected because of the fateful Bonn NATO policy. On the stones of this wall stand atomic armament, entry into NATO, revanchist demands, anti-communist incitement, non recognition of the GDR, rejection of negotiations, the front-line city of West Berlin.

So, make your contribution to the pulling down of this wall by advocating a reasonable policy of military neutrality, peaceful co-existence, normal relations between the two German states, the conclusion of a peace treaty with Germany, a demilitarized Free City of West Berlin. That is the only way to improve the situation in Berlin, to safeguard peace, a way which can, one day also lead to the reunification of Germany. The wall says to the war-mongers:

He who lives on an island should not make an enemy of the ocean.

Decide in favour of the recognition of realities. don’t join in the row over the wall. Perhaps YOU don’t want socialism. That is your affair.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

November 12, 2014 at 1:24 pm

Back the FBU Statement in Support of the Kurds and Why We Don’t Back ‘Labour Solidarity with the Kurds’.

with 2 comments

Defend the Kurds: But How? 

In response to the attack by Isis on Kobane one the most respected trade unions in Britain, the Fire Brigades Union, issued the following appeal a few days ago.

The FBU Executive Council is appalled by the ongoing siege of the predominantly Kurdish town of Kobane in northern Syria by ISIS forces.

The Executive Council notes:

  • The ISIS attack on Kobane and resistance of Kurdish and other local forces.
  • The role of Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, UAE (all UK/US allies) in building, assisting and encouraging the growth of ISIS.
  • The particular role of the Turkish government in allowing money, arms and fighters across the border to build support for ISIS.
  • The role of Turkey at various times in obstructing the flight of Kurdish and other refugees and in blocking any support for predominantly Kurdish defenders of Kobane, thereby increasing the power and influence of ISIS and likelihood of collapse of opposition to it.

As the union of firefighting humanitarian professionals, we believe it is right to warn of the prospects of a massacre and to demand that governments (including the UK government) act to prevent atrocities. As professionals who have to deal with international humanitarian disasters as well as the effects of terrorism on our own doorstep, we cannot passively fold our arms and do nothing in the face of a likely massacre.

We send our message of solidarity to the workers’ organisations in Turkey, Iran and Iraq, including the Kurdish workers’ organisations. We believe these are the progressive forces that can oppose oppressive governments and reactionary and sectarian forces of all types, and can best guarantee workers’ rights and ensure democratic relations between the peoples of the region.

We support the right of Kurdish people across the Middle East to self-determination, including their right to defend themselves against attack from ISIS.

We oppose the horrific brutality of ISIS and its sectarian and murderous behaviour towards peoples of the region.

We condemn the Turkish government’s comments equating Kurdish fighters (including the defenders of Kobane) with ISIS.

We have no confidence in a US/UK/French bombing campaign against ISIS, based on the bitter experience of such efforts in the last decade and on the appalling role played by the Turkish government and other key western allies in the region.

We demand that:

  • The Turkish government lifts border obstructions to refugees.
  • The Turkish government allows relief efforts, including by opening a relief corridor to the Kurds and other forces defending Kobane.

We call for the TUC to raise these matters urgently, including with the Turkish embassy, the UK government and with trade unions in Europe and elsewhere. We call for international trade union solidarity and support for the defenders of Kobane.

Best wishes.

Yours fraternally

Matt Wrack
General Secretary

This appeal was also issued last Saturday,

WE SAY NEVER AGAIN

Labour Solidarity with Kurds.

“And all of those who’ve been the victims of genocide and crimes against humanity. We honour their memory, we remember their persecution and their suffering and we say never again”

Ed Miliband, Leader of the Labour Party, Holocaust Memorial, January 2014

An open letter to the Labour Movement

We, non-Kurdish members of the British Labour Party and Trade Unions, are calling for an urgent and significant increase in the support from Britain and other countries to the people defending the world against the onslaught of the so-called Islamic State (ISIS). The Kurds of Kobani, Rojava and the Kurdistan Region, including Yezidis, Christians and other minorities, are on the front line of a global battle against the vilest fascism of our age. We must help them, we must call on the world to help them, and this help must be given by whatever means necessary. The Labour movement is an internationalist movement which understands deeply the plight of those who suffer at under tyranny. We must now stand united in our efforts to secure changes to current UK government policy in this conflict.

The images of grandmothers and grandfathers fighting, and often dying, alongside their younger families is something almost impossible for us in Britain to comprehend. The tales of beheadings, the abandoned dead bodies of women with their breasts cut off, men with their eyes gouged out, sex slavery, genocides and mass executions, and reports of the burning skin of possible acid attacks are too horrific for the British Left to give a half hearted response, or worse.

These atrocities are real, they are happening right now, and those suffering them are real too. They are real women, real men, and real children. They are workers and trade unionists, they are nurses, doctors, teachers and other public servants. They are farmers, electricians, chefs, politicians, and they are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters. They are the same as us, they are our international sisters and brothers and they desperately need, and profoundly deserve, our support.

We pay huge respect to those who have fought and continue to fight so courageously against ISIS. The role of Kurdish women fighters and leaders has been widely reported and had added a further poignancy to a battle which, if lost, would be a victory for an ideology which degrades, silences and enslaves women as a matter of principle. Many of the women on the front line are mothers. They are fighting for the lives and futures of their sons and their daughters. We must help them.

We in Britain are privileged to live in a peaceful, liberal, secular and democratic society, and we must never forgot that such a society had to be fought for, won and defended. It did not happen through some passive progressive evolution, but was won and preserved through progressive politics, through agitation, and most recently through war against Nazism. Now, a powerful horror is being unleashed into the world by ISIS, who believe they are carrying out divine work. They will not give up, they will not stop. They have to be taken on, and defeated, and this has to be done intellectually, spiritually, and practically. The Labour Party does not turn away from those in need. We help. And we must do so with great urgency now.

Each year politicians say “never again” as they lay their wreaths of Remembrance and at events marking the Holocaust. “Never Again” is a commitment to the men and women who fought and died in these wars that their sacrifices will be honoured and defended, through words and deeds. This surely means doing everything and anything necessary to help stop these atrocities now. To turn away from those in need at this moment would be an historically unforgivable act of abandonment to the past, the present and the future.

We on the Left have an historic responsibility to turn powerful statements about solidarity into concrete action and to give our full support to the Kurds at this moment of their greatest need. We therefore implore the entire Labour movement, the Leadership of the Labour Party and the Trade Unions and our fellow members to use our collective influence to seek and support the following:

  • The Kurds of Rojava in Syria and of the Kurdistan Region in Iraq are asking for solidarity against ISIS, which is active in both Iraq and Syria and between which there is no longer any border. We are asking that you support the use of British jets in air strikes against ISIS in both countries and urge the British government to change their position on British airstrikes against ISIS in Syria.
  • British government to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and in the Kurdistan Region.
  • A recognition within the Labour Movement that the Kurds and the Iraqis will play the most decisive role in ground operations to defend their homelands. They are not currently asking for the assistance of British and other western ground troops but a global fight of this kind cannot rule this out in the future.
  • To recognise that there may be future incarnations of ISIS and that this needs to be tackled by a mixture of political, economic and other measures to help increase tolerance, pluralism, and women’s rights to reduce and prevent the radicalisation of young people in the Middle East and more widely.
  • To urge Turkey to recognise the Kurds as allies in the fight against ISIS.
  • To recognise that ISIS barbarism has resulted in the flight of over a million refugees from Syria and internally displaced people from Arab Iraq into temporary sanctuary in the Kurdistan Region. The strain of this humanitarian crisis is enormous and the cold winter will mean many needless deaths unless the international community and Baghdad provide much needed support to the communities on the front line.
  • To call upon the Iraqi Government in Baghdad to end the economic blockade against the Kurdistan Region in Iraq.

People are dying every day at the hands of ISIS. They are being enslaved, raped, tortured, mutilated and brutalised and there is no end in sight. Our Labour Party and Labour movement has a duty to do justice to the anti-fascist, internationalist, courageous history of the Left and to do what is so needed now.

Yours in solidarity,

In  reporting on this appeal the Kurdish News Agency site Rudaw added this,

Nick Cohen, a prominent British left-leaning columnist who nevertheless regularly castigates the left for its compromises with Islamic fundamentalism, welcomed what he called “a glimmer of light can pass for a dawn.”Commenting on the open letter in The Spectator magazine, he wrote: “Today’s intervention by the Labour friends of the Kurds is a sign that there is not one ‘left’ but many lefts, and not everyone goes along with the  compromises of the past decade. Call me a trusting fool but perhaps, too, it is a sign that left-wing politics is becoming a little less seedy.”

Are the two appeals different?

Yes and in very important ways.

This is hard to say, and even harder to write, but there are fundamentally distinct objectives in the underlying  approaches.

Nick Cohen in the Spectator  draws out the implications of the Appeal.

Their proposals are both essential and sensible. They want the RAF to join allied air strikes against ISIS in Syria as well as Iraq; and for Labour to call on the British government to send to send increased aid and arms, including heavy weapons, to the Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Kobani, and across Kurdistan.  Both are  desperately needed – Iraqi Kurdistan alone must cope with one million refugees and a well-armed force of clerical fascists, which could return to slaughter Kurds at any moment.

The MPs, party activists and trade unionists are too tactful to mention that an alliance between the Labour leadership and Tory right (not quite a Hitler-Stalin pact, but in the same territory) stopped British action against Assad, Cameron dare not allow the RAF to deliver the support to the Syrian Kurds they want for fear that left and right will combine again and destroy his government.

He then makes this observation: explaining why Miliband is unwilling to call for the RAF to attack Isis.

Bush, Iraq, post-colonial guilt, pacifism, parochial stupidity and the appeal of minding your own business and not wasting blood and treasure in other people’s conflicts

It would not be unfair to say that Cohen does not want intervention to stop at the defence of the Kurds.

He  has been consistently explicit in his stand on removing Assad,

As in (1st January 2012)  The west has a duty to intervene in Syria

Cohen cites Michael Weiss from the Henry Jackson Society, so-named after a virulently anti-communist American Democrat  ‘Scoop’ Jackson. He was a Congressman and Senator known for close ties to the Defence Industry and  who supported the Bombing of North Vietnam (1). Weiss had a plan for this intervention,

American, British and French air power might combine with Turkish ground forces to create a safe haven in northern Syria, where mutinous troops from the Syrian army could build a fighting force. Nato officials have studied it, while Burhan Ghalioun, chairman of the Syrian National Council, described the report as a “crucial resource for understanding how a humanitarian intervention in Syria can still be carried out responsibly.

This plan was not adopted.

Most people would not accept that it was ever viable, that interventions were bound to be botched, run up against the opposition of large numbers of Syrians,  and that the Syrian National Council was never a real player in the emerging civil war.

Cohen has not accepted this.

For him the absence of Western intervention (meaning a determined thrust to remove Assad)  in Syria was a betrayal.

He has written earlier this year (Observer).

A great evil has been done to Syria. I cannot see how any western project against Islamic State can prosper until the “conscience of the world” provides redress by saying it will not tolerate the continuation of the Assad regime. At present, however, the world won’t even acknowledge evil’s existence. We must expect evil in return.

The FBU did not back Western intervention in Syria.

It would be unfair to accuse them of ‘tolerating’ Assad: they, like most people on the left, simply did not see Western intervention as a serious means to create a democratic Syria.

No doubt they could point to the fact that there has been intervention (if not on Cohen’s personal terms). That is there was a flow of arms from the West to (initially) a broad swathe of the Syrian opposition, and a blind-eye to the weapons and recruits to the original jihadis, were part of the reason why we now have Isis/Islamic state.

Now the FBU does not call for UK aircraft to bomb Isis .

This is part of a blanket statement.

It “places no confidence” in a US/UK/French bombing campaign.

The FBU does not oppose arming the Kurdish resistance – it simply does not state a position.

Tendance Coatesy argues for arms for the Kurds according to their own wishes.

This is both distinct from the Stop the War Coalition’s view and from the call, without asking the Kurds’ opinion, on the British Government to use air power in Syria.

If it sounds ridiculous to have a dogmatic stand on this, from our real position in the world, we certainly welcome air raids and any means possible to defend Kobane.

We will not go further.

This comment has appeared in Tendance Coatesy’s comment boxes; asking why we do not ‘go further’.

Well, the FBU have said they want the UK Govt to “prevent atrocities” but have “no confidence” in a bombing campaign against Isis. Well, what should the Govt do then?

The Kurds in Kobane, on the other hand, do have confidence in the present airstrikes against Isis and are very happy to receive arms from the Americans.

While, I am sure, the Kurds are happy for the support of Unite and the FBU, I think they would prefer Ed Miliband and the Labour Party to adopt the ideas outlined above by “Labour Solidarity with the Kurds.”

Comments Jonr R.

It is clear that amongst those signing the Labour Solidarity with the Kurds are those who consider, like Cohen, that we should go further.

A lot lot further.

That this should be a bridgehead for much wider intervention in the Syrian Civil War – a demand which was predicted would be raised.

This is so completely off the wall that it is hard to know where to begin.

Perhaps we should say, in Henry Jackson style, that one can’t get use arms in a civil war, getting intimately involved in a life and death struggle, on the basis of all the horror and outrage one can muster at Assad and the Islamist genociders.

We can take sides in a precise case where we know something of the forces pitted against each other: the PKK/PYD against Isis/Islamic State.

We do not need to underline the links between those who’ve signed this appeal to the pro-Tony Blair Progress and the Henry Jackson Society to make further points casting doubt about it.

But one thing stands out: perhaps the most prominent signatory of Labour Solidarity with the Kurds, is Gary Kent  who is intimately involved in the politics of the Middle East. (2). He has just published in Progress an account of their appeal, Taking on ‘the vilest fascism of our age’. He has also spoken at more than one Henry Jackson event (including its launch).

Kent is a classic liberal interventionist.

Well it worked so well in Iraq, why not give it a try in Syria?

(1)  “The Henry Jackson Society is a non-profit organisation that seeks to promote the following principles: that liberal democracy should be spread across the world; that as the world’s most powerful democracies, the United States and the European Union – under British leadership – must shape the world more actively by intervention and example; that such leadership requires political will, a commitment to universal human rights and the maintenance of a strong military with global expeditionary reach; and that too few of our leaders in Britain and the rest of Europe today are ready to play a role in the world that matches our strength and responsibilities.”

(2) Gary Kent, Labour member, Director, of Labour Friends of Iraq, Unite/NUJ/Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (honorary). Labour Friends of Iraq, Founding statement 2004. “Iraq is emerging from its long nightmare of Saddam’s totalitarianism, wars and privation. Iraq now has an opportunity to use its natural and human wealth to build a democratic civil society. An independent and secular labour movement is a key part of civil society and can do much to promote the unity of working people, regardless of creed or gender.”

See also: ROJAVA, IMPERIALISM AND THE ISLAMIC STATES .

And: LES COMMUNISTES-OUVRIERS ET LE « CONFÉDÉRALISME DÉMOCRATIQUE » Camille Boudjak

And: Solidarity with the Kurds, or NATO-bashing?  (Alliance for Workers ‘Liberty).